The U.S. designated Hizbul Mujahideen – the largest indigenous armed group in Indian-administered Kashmir – as a terrorist group on Wednesday, imposing sanctions and freezing their assets in the U.S. Donald Trump’s administration has already designated Mohammad Yusuf Shah (a.k.a. Syed Salahuddin) a global terrorist in June this year. He is the leader of the organization. Pakistan and China criticized Trump’s decision, saying it was a move to appease India. The U.N. has not declared Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist yet.

Strength of Hizbul Mujahideen in the valley

Founded in 1989 by Mohammad Ahsan Dar, Hizbul Mujahideen (Party of Holy Warriors) has more than 10,000 armed and well-trained members in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir fighting against Indian forces for the liberation of the valley. Besides Hizbul Mujahideen, there are several militant groups fighting against the Indian army. Al-Qaeda, JKLF (Jammu Kasmir Liberation Front), and other small separatist groups are active there, but this particular organization is deeply rooted in the region, directly associated with many Pakistani terror groups and organizations. It collects weapons and money from Pakistani groups. Hafiz Saeed is the backbone of the organization, recently establishing a new political party in Pakistan.

In July last year, Indian army killed Burwan Wani – a Hizbul Mujahideen commander – in the valley. This incident sparked an anti-Indian protest throughout the valley in which many civilians died. The nature of the protest is enough to show the grip of the organization in the valley. A large number of civilians gathered in his funeral with arms.

The protests are still going on in the valley. Adding many other local outfits, Hizbul Mujahideen has grown its strengths in the valley. The State Chief Minister’s recent revelation on national television about China’s involvement in the valley is not a good sign for the peace process in the valley.

The Kashmir conflict

Kashmir has been a core issue between India and Pakistan since 1947, when these two countries partitioned.

Both countries have fought three wars on the issue. As mentioned in Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was free to go to India or Pakistan. At this time, more than 80% people in the territory do not want it to be governed by India. They want a referendum but Indian government wants to establish a peaceful government under the Indian Constitution. Since 1947, more than 80,000 peoples have been killed by Indian forces and more than 10,000 Indian forces have been martyred by militants. The UN has been suggesting dialogues between the two countries but talks have yielded nothing.